Board calls meeting tonight to open position

Danville coach Lenny Smith calls out directions to his team during a game earlier this year at Central Columbia High School.

Danville basketball coach Lenny Smith may be out of a coaching job, following the Danville School Board’s vote Wednesday night to open the position.

The board voted on the matter along with other “consent agenda items” in one vote. Only board President Bonnie Edmeads voted no.

Before the vote, Robert Buehner, of Valley Township, questioned the anticipated move, saying no one from the district even informed Smith the board planned to reopen the position.

“He had to find out through the media,” Buehner said.

Buehner — a former Montour County district attorney — also claimed a district administrator, whom he did not name, wanted Smith to lie to the board and say he planned to step down for health reasons, so the board could then say what a great coach he was.

“A school administrator wanted one of your employees to lie to you,” Buehner alleged.

Board Vice President Vic Marks questioned that later in the meeting.

“I do not as a board member believe any administrator misled the board,” Marks said

Buehner said of opening the coaching position, “That’s just a polite way of saying termination.”

“Lenny Smith is the most successful basketball coach in the area, bar none,” Buehner said, noting the coach has had 18 consecutive winning seasons and been loyal above reproach.

Smith holds a .701 winning percentage with the Ironmen, led the team to 14 state playoff appearances in 18 seasons and has won three straight division titles.

He asked the board to put the vote on hold and call in Smith to discuss the issue with him.

Danville finished 20-8 this season, winning Division I of the Heartland Athletic Conference and the HAC Tournament title, and handing Loyalsock its only loss of the season. The Ironmen lost in the District 4 Class 4A championship game, before dropping a first-round PIAA contest to Tamaqua

In the only other public comment on the issue, the mother of four students who played for Smith had a different view of the coach. Beth Keefer, of Rush Township, the mother of “the Riley boys,” as she called them, said they were associated with the program for seven or eight years.

She said whenever they had difficulties with the coach, she always encouraged them to figure it out. She said coaches should show respect for players as well as be respected.

“As the years went on, it was harder and harder to send them back,” Keefer told the board. “I feel a coach needs to be someone to be looked up to.”

She added, “It was difficult watching my kids year after year, having to deal with it.”

Superintendent Ricki Boyle later read a statement on the district’s policies related to athletics. She read that each year, administrators meet with each coach and evaluate them before and after each season, and the district reserves the right to open coaching positions.

She said this instance was based on the recommendation of numerous sources.

On a separate athletics issue, the board approved Jim Nizinski as girls tennis coach for the 2020-2021 season. The stipend will be paid at the end of the season consistent with the 2020-2021 budget. 

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